When Jess Chitty first arrived in the Okanagan and started working at Vernon Christian School, the charm of the area made one thing clear: she had to stay.
A teacher for more than seven years, Chitty heard about the Society of Christian Schools in British Columbia (SCSBC) while studying in Australia.
Fast forward five years and with a two-year working holiday Visa in hand, Chitty boarded a plane bound for Canada in March 2020, the same day international borders closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I had a summer job lined up, but because of the pandemic, there was a lot of uncertainty about whether or not I would be able to do that job,” said Chitty.
Luckily, a friend in Manitoba had a place for her to stay. Within a few months and with an application to the SCSBC, Chitty found a job at Vernon Christian School. She promptly headed west and never looked back.
“The Society inspired me to want to teach and grow here. The community I’m in at Vernon Christian School is phenomenal; it’s unlike any community I’ve ever been in,” said Chitty. “To me, there’s nothing more purposeful or rewarding than investing in someone else’s life. The privilege of working alongside children and families, I don’t think anything else compares.”
Taking into account her rewarding career, her newfound sense of community and the natural four-season beauty of the Okanagan, Chitty made the decision to turn her two-year stay into a permanent move.
“I was seeking ways to apply for permanent residency and found that the online system was challenging to navigate,” said Chitty. “Trying to find avenues that I could take in my situation was difficult on my own.”
Chitty reached out to an immigration consultant in the summer of 2021 and soon learned about the Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot (RNIP) program. At the start of her third school year at Vernon Christian School, she learned she would be able to stay permanently.
“It feels amazing. It honestly is a huge relief to know that I can stay here long-term.”
Matt Driediger, principal at Vernon Christian School, agrees.
“Jess is a passionate and gifted teacher. Students and colleagues thrive around her, impacted by her care and expertise. We are so grateful to have her in our school community,” said Driediger. “The RNIP program benefited us tremendously. It supported us in the process of demonstrating Jess’s value to our school and to Canada, and ultimately helped her achieve permanent residency so that she can continue serving on our staff and in the Vernon community.”